Early Spring Training Roundup

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Written by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Baseball is back! The first week of Spring Training games is in the books, and already there are plenty of 2017 minor leaguers who are putting up impressive performances out of the gates here in 2018. I will highlight some of the top performers across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, Houston Astros (Spring Training: West Palm Beach, FL)
Rogelio ArmenterosFor a team that goes seven solid starters deep at the major league level, Houston’s AAA rotation should feature the strong arm of Armenteros in 2018. Along with other highly talented young arms Francis Martes and David Paulino, Armenteros should not be overlooked as a premium young talent in his own right in the minor leagues. Through two spring outings and one start, Armenteros has 5 IP, allowing 1 R, 3 H, and putting up 9 K and only 1 BB. Armenteros features a low 90’s fastball, two breaking balls, and an excellent changeup. His good control and durable build signal a rotation future for the 23 year old Cuban, and a call up to help defend the World Series title in Houston at some point this season.
 
Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees (Spring Training: Tampa, FL)
Miguel AndujarIn December, I wrote about Andujar’s struggles in the Dominican Winter League. That seems like a long time ago now. Since the calendar has turned to March, Andujar is sizzling at the plate this Spring: 6 hits in 14 at bats, including 4 home runs and a double. With Gleyber Torres looking more like the everyday 2B for the Yankees, Andujar is playing for a shot to start at the hot corner in the Bronx. Newcomer Brandon Drury provides insurance for both top prospects, but Andujar is as hot as they come in the batters box right now. The energy in his swing is exciting here in the early going for the Yankees! If you don’t believe me just ask @PeoplezPen.
 
Franchy Cordero, OF, San Diego Padres (Spring Training: Peoria, AZ)
FranchyCordero is coming off of a stellar 2017 season at AAA, capping it off with an MVP award playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Cordero is picking up right where he left off so far in the Cactus League, swatting 2 HR and 2 doubles in 13 at bats. Though he has 5 strikeouts, the Padres have an intriguing power-speed bat in Cordero that looks ready to contribute at the major league level. With the team’s signing of Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers will slide to LF, further complicating the already crowded OF picture for Cordero to emerge as an everyday option this season. The Padres may need to make some trades to clear space for Cordero, but his loud play for the better part of the last calendar year makes it hard to ignore his potentially bright future playing in San Diego in short order.
 
Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland Indians (Spring Training: Goodyear, AZ)

Greg AllenSpeedster Greg Allen profiles as a top of the order hitter and an excellent outfield defender. Similar to both Armenteros and Cordero, Allen is also blocked positionally in the big leagues. Nearly 25 years old, Allen played primarily for the Akron Rubberducks (AA) in 2017, swiping 24/26 bases (92%) in 76 total games. In 388 career minor league games, Allen has gotten on base at a stellar .379 clip. In 7 Cactus League games so far, Allen has 8 hits in 15 at bats, including 2 doubles and 1 triple. He also has 5 runs and 5 RBI. With incumbent LF Michael Brantley questionable for opening day, Allen could have an opportunity to begin the season in Cleveland. Regardless of where he starts the season, Allen should be among the first OF considered to be called up from the minor leagues, especially with his switch-hitting ability and all-around exciting skill set.

Follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos! Thanks!

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The Next Wave of Top Prospects: National League

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Written by Ben Wilson

I have highlighted one sleeper prospect from each NL team for deeper dynasty leagues that are on the verge of garnering more attention. This list looks at minor leaguers who were taken before the 2017 draft, but are still eligible for this season’s minor league dynasty drafts. The accompanying AL edition was published previously on this site.

Jhoan Duran, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

The 6’5” right-hander out of the Dominican Republic just turned 20 years old, and has been in the Diamondbacks system since 2015. Duran has a lively mid 90’s fastball, with the heavy sink and late movement that makes the offering play up even more. While his curveball and changeup are still works in progress, Duran has been able to limit walks by showing decent control: in his first taste of Low A, he was able to maintain a 1.19 WHIP in 51.1 IP. If Duran can develop more consistency with his changeup, he will see his K numbers rise significantly to play off his excellent fastball.

Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Atlanta Braves

An exciting 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion is generating some buzz in early 2018 in deep dynasty leagues. By being attached to one of baseball’s most prominent farm systems, Encarnacion is in a great environment for his tools to develop. Encarnacion has shown signs of hitting for average as well as power, while flashing some useable, situational speed on the bases. Encarnacion has the arm and athleticism to stick at 3B. Encarnacion has some wrap to his swing and a very low walk rate; but after smoothing it out with continued development and refining his approach, he has all the makings of a very solid MLB player for the Braves.

Charcer Burks, OF, Chicago Cubs

Taken in the 9th round of the 2013 Draft out of Richmond, Texas, Burks has climbed steadily through the Cubs system and reached both AA and the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Burks has been praised for his on base approach and high character, and he found some over the fence power this season. While Burks will not become a prolific HR hitter, he does possess good strength, and a small leg kick in his right handed swing which helps generate extra base hit power. Burks may have the speed to steal 20 bases as a regular at the highest level, but needs to refine his technique since he was successful at a 57% clip at AA (16SB, 12CS).

Michael Beltre, OF, Cincinnati Reds

With Taylor Trammell (LF), Jose Siri (CF), and Michael Beltre (RF), the Dayton Dragons had one of the most toolsy outfields in the minors in 2017. A switch hitter, Beltre can both cut down his swing and slap the ball the other way, or sell out for pull side power. Watching tape of Beltre, I am reminded of Jose Reyes and Corey Patterson respectively in those situations. Beltre has the ability to take a walk, but can sometimes be overly patient, hence his higher K numbers. He has an impressive foundation of tools and is a name to watch among a bright crop of prospects in Cincinnati.

Breiling Eusebio, LHP, Colorado Rockies

If you look past the “Colorado pitcher thing,” Eusebio is a compelling pitching prospect that I am really excited about. Eusebio primarily boasts a dynamic fastball and curveball (11-7) combination, with both offerings currently above average at present. Eusebio has an athletic presence on the mound, and looks the part operating from a high-handed set position. With a groundball generating arsenal, Eusebio should not be an overlooked name in Colorado.

Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Speaking of compelling left-handed pitching prospects, Ferguson really came on this year in the Dodger system pitching at A+ Rancho Cucamonga. In 24 starts and 122.1 IP, Ferguson compiled a 2.87 ERA, with 140K/55BB. Still just 21 years old, Ferguson fell in the draft in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, but has been steadily developing since. Ferguson has a simple delivery and a sturdy build in his 6’3” frame. If he takes a comparable step forward this year, Ferguson will not be available for very long in most dynasty formats.

James Nelson, 3B, Miami Marlins

Nelson is a talented all-around player in the Marlins system. Initially drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round, Nelson passed on signing and was taken instead by the Marlins just a year later and three rounds earlier. Nelson’s play on the field this past season was undeniably impressive, as he was selected to the All Star team in A ball. Nelson sets up at the plate from the right side with a slightly open stance and low hand position with a medium right elbow lift. While he put up 106K/26BB in 102 games in 2017, Nelson has been an excellent contributor and has the ability to develop into an exciting 3B regular in the big leagues.

Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft from Hawaii has had some struggles in his early years, but really figured some things out this past season at High A Carolina. Consistently putting up good K numbers in the minors due to a wicked fastball-slider combination, Medeiros has been working on mechanical adjustments to his arm slot, which has contributed to his mixed results. He has a bit of a “Bumgarner sling” to his delivery, but Medeiros has the pure stuff to be a starter with a high leverage relief fallback from the left side. He certainly has the draft pedigree to take the next step in his development, and hope that the Hawaiian lefty can continue to build on his growth from his strong showing this year.

Corey Oswalt, RHP, New York Mets

Oswalt has been around for a few years in the Mets system, as he was a 7th round draft pick in 2012. Spending 2017 at AA Binghamton, Oswalt compiled a 12-5 record, with a 2.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 119K/40BB in 134.1 IP. Oswalt has the makings of an innings eater at the back of the rotation, as 17 of his 24 starts in 2017 were 6+ IP. Oswalt uses his 6’5” frame and strong lower half in his delivery of his four-pitch mix. Given the Mets proclivity for pitching injuries at the big league level, Oswalt should have a bag packed ready to get the call in Queens as soon as mid 2018.

Victor Arano, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Arano was acquired from the Dodgers back in 2014, and has seen time in both the rotation and bullpen. Converted to a full time reliever in 2016, Arano’s already solid stuff played up as electric out of the pen. Arano even saw 10.2 successful big league innings in 2017, whiffing 13 and allowing on 4 free passes with a 1.69 ERA. I talked to a talent evaluator about why they like Arano for dynasty leagues, citing the “precarious Phillies closer situation” and “high digit heat” as attractive parts of Arano’s profile. If Arano can break camp with the Phillies this spring, he has the talent to work his way into high leverage opportunities in short order.

Jason Martin, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Martin moves into the Pittsburgh system in the last few days as one of four players shipped from Houston to Pittsburgh in the Gerrit Cole deal. Martin was a potential Rule 5 pick when he was left unprotected by Houston, and seems that his time ending in Houston was inevitable. Given the Astros deep farm system, the Pirates gladly pounced on the opportunity to acquire the talented Martin.  He has solid tools across the board, as he swatted 18 HR and swiped 16 bases across 125 games at the A+ and AA levels. Standing at 5’11”, Martin is a bit of a tweener in his ultimate outfield home due to his arm and offensive production, but he can contribute to the big league picture as soon as 2018 in a 4th OF role.

Jordy Barley, SS, San Diego Padres

There are multiple candidates for the San Diego sleeper highlight, but Barley stands out as a talented teenage shortstop. One of Barley’s best tools is his speed, but he has a solid hit tool already and plays the game with high energy. He has a quiet setup in the box and a small double toe tap, but uncorks an explosive, full body swing. While fellow San Diego SS Gabriel Arias may be grabbing attention from his loud play in Australia, Barley is yet another name to circle in the San Diego system flush with prospects.

Sam Wolff, RHP, San Francisco Giants

Wolff has yet to throw a pitch in the Giants system, as he was involved in a trade package in December from the Texas Rangers organization for LHP Matt Moore. Wolff sports a fastball that can touch 100 out of the bullpen, where he became a full time reliever in 2017. The 26 year old should work his way into the San Francisco bullpen picture at some point in the near future, and his control will need to set him apart from a handful of other right-handed flamethrowers in the high minors in their system.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

According to pictures that Seijas posted on Twitter a couple of days ago standing next to the 5’11” Yadier Molina and the 5’9” Kolten Wong, Seijas definitely appears to be taller than his listed 5’8”, perhaps closer to Molina’s height than Wong’s. Given this conservative height listing to date, fewer people are as high on this interesting righty as they should be considering his big stuff from the mound. At 19 years old and billed as undersized to this point, Seijas is still getting every opportunity to be a starting pitcher for the Cardinals and has impressed with his body of work so far. His long arms and athletic presence on the mound are only the beginning of his pitching profile, as he has a very promising future in a system that has had high levels of developmental success with pitchers.

Taylor Gushue, C, Washington Nationals

Gushe is a switch-hitting catcher who spent a majority of this past season at High A, while earning an end of year promotion to AA. Gushue also was a member of the 2017 Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, playing behind Oakland’s Sean Murphy and Chicago Cubs’ Ian Rice. Gushue mashed 18 HR’s playing for Potomac in the Carolina League, where he was tied for second in the league in that category. Gushue also showed patience at the plate, putting together 41 BB in 91 G. The solidly-built Gushue is worth a look in deeper two catcher formats, as the 24-year-old catcher has enough to be an offensive-first backup as a floor.

Make sure to check out the AL Deep Dynasty Sleeper Edition here.

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!

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